New American Reform Responsa
138. Transporting the Torah
QUESTION: A former member of our temple wishes to purchase one of our Torahs and give it to her new congregation in memory of her parents. Are there any restrictions on how the Torah is to be transported to the new community and the money which paid for this Torah? (Rabbi Leonard Winograd, McKeesport PA)ANSWER: Let us deal with the matter of the sale of the Torah first. A Torah may be sold in order to support those who are poor or the educational ventures of the congregation (Tur and Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 259). As this Torah will simply be moved from one congregation to another the honor of the Torah will not be disturbed. The problem of transportation or storage has not been dealt with extensively as the main consideration is that the Torah be treated with reverence and not be dishonored. The Torah was to be treated with honor and anyone who despised a Torah would also have contempt for human beings (M Pirqei Avot 3.2). When the Torah was raised individuals always stood (Kid 33b) and when it passed, adults and children either bowed their head or kissed it (Tur and Shulhan Arukh Even Haezar 115). There were regulations which governed the manner of carrying a Torah while in procession. Nothing disrespectful is to be done in the presence of the Torah. The congregation must not leave the synagogue until the Torah has been safely stored (Sotah 39; Ber 23b). A Torah may not be tossed from one place to another nor may it be placed on or beneath a bed. If, by chance, it is placed on a bed then no one may sit there with it (Mas Sofrim 3.11-13). It could also not be stored in a bedroom (Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 282). The sacredness of the Torah extended to its coverings and the ark in which it was kept should subsequently not be used for a profane purpose (Meg 26b f). A defective Torah is hidden away or burned (Meg 26b; Ket 19b). A Torah should therefore be transported personally from one synagogue to another in order to accord it proper reverence. If this is not feasible then it may be carefully packed and shipped.November 1987
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